What I learned from John Wayne

My dad loved westerns.  When I had a couple of hours to kill recently, captive in a waiting room, I took my laptop and his old DVD of The Sons of Katie Elder.

There’s a scene where John Wayne is standing in the saloon, while the minor villain Curly taunts the Duke’s little brother Bud, egging him on to grab the gun on the bar so Curly has an excuse to shoot him.  You just know that the Duke could get the gun and blast Curly before Curly could draw, even though Bud couldn’t, and the Duke knows it too.

He doesn’t do it though.  He faces down Curly until the sheriff arrives toting a shotgun to break it all up.

But when the real scoundrel needs dealing with at the end of the movie, and some serious Texan justice is required, the Duke says to the lawman, “Harry, you know I have to do this myself.” (The scoundrel being the one who shot the Duke’s father in the back, and had one of his brothers killed.)  The scoundrel is blown to smithereens by a big tin of gunpowder that the Duke ignites with a bullett.

What I learned from John Wayne is, you don’t have to do it just because you can.

I sit in board meetings two or three times a month.  I see people doing and saying things which are wrong, high-handed, inefficient, unhelpful, self-centred or counter-productive.

It’s hard to let that stuff go by without jumping in and pointing out the follies being committed.  Probably too often, I do.

I see things happen in family situations, when people say stuff which is irrational, inflammatory, irrelevant or insensitive, and upset people they are supposed to love.

It’s hard not to jump in and give my two bob’s worth.  I can leave it alone, and let it blow over or fizzle out; or I can throw in my contribution and help it escalate into a full blown barney, and my finger itches on the trigger, wanting to shoot.  Probably too often, I do.

But now, maybe, I could ask myself, “What would John Wayne do?”  I could draw really fast like him, take aim and let my wisdom-tipped bullets fly.  Or I could wait until the real fight comes along, when I know it will be my time to say, “I have to do this myself, Harry.”

When is that?

  • When someone or something is really going to get hurt
  • When something irretrievable or illegal is about to happen
  • When someone is going to do or say something they will later deeply regret
  • When it’s not my ego with the gun in its hand.

Thanks Duke.

I had some more time to fill in, and I watched Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. I learned a thing or two from Bogey as well.  It was a very educational day.

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    • Dee
    • November 22nd, 2012

    Agree wholeheartedly Bindi!! And sometimes we fail,hence my comment on everyone being human and fallible!

  1. Holding back is often harder than holding forth. It’s a tricky balancing act.

    • Dee
    • November 21st, 2012

    All of the above is what makes us human. Life is MESSY!

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